Early Dec., Twitter and traditional media blew up after comedian D.L. Hughley called Trans actress Indya Moore a ‘pussy’ and Kevin Hart resigned from hosting the Oscars after refusing to apologize for extremely homophobic language. Also this month, a 20-year-old woman in New York was punched from behind in a subway attack that fractured her spine by a man who called her an anti-gay slur. These are just a few of the violent and tragic stories that made the headlines.
As we move into the holiday season, a time for family, sharing love, and good cheer, it is important to remember the many ways that Black LGBTQ and same gender loving people as well as individuals thriving with HIV face high stress, ridicule, and the risk of rejection simply as a result of who they are and how they show up in the world.
The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black LGBTQ/SGL people, is calling for “courageous and life saving conversations during the holiday season,” as part of the #WordsMatter campaign and recently released, digital HIV toolkit. #WordsMatter is based largely on NBJC’s commitment to creating spaces where all Black people feel comfortable showing up in all of their identities and empowering individuals to have stigma free, asset based conversations with their parents, family, and friends.
“No one wins when we don’t dig in, grow, and demonstrate a desire to honor everyone’s humanity. We cannot hide stigma and bigotry behind jokes. There’s power in precision and words matter,” says NBJC Executive Director David Johns. “People have been persecuted as a result of things that are said because of reinforced bigoted ideas that people have and this must change.”
Simply put, words matter. Words and phrases perpetuate stereotypical ideas of individuals and communities that shape our views and interactions. Negative Language can reinforce layered forms of oppression and discrimination based on gender, race, sexual identity, socioeconomic status, and other factors. Repeated exposure to negative language affirming stigma, oppression, and discrimination negatively affects the health and well-being of an individual.
Through NBJC’s #Words Matter toolkit, individuals can recognize that words are a powerful tool in disrupting bias and stigma as well as facilitating healing for those living with HIV.
It is important to use words to eliminate HIV stigma because when people are afraid of experiencing discrimination they are less likely to be tested or treated for HIV. Additionally, treating individuals living with HIV differently can negatively affect their ability to secure life’s necessities like housing, employment, medical care, and necessary social support.